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Bipartisan congressional caucus forms to address fentanyl crisis

United State capitol in Washington, D.C. © iStock - Muni Yogeshwaran
Bethany Blankley

(The Center Square) – Labeling the smuggling of illicit fentanyl into the U.S. from Mexico "a national crisis," a group of lawmakers has formed a bipartisan caucus to address the issue.

Led by Republican California Reps. Ken Calvert and Darrell Issa and Democratic Reps. Joe Neguse of Colorado and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, the Bipartisan Fentanyl Prevention Caucus was formed to “coordinate with members from both sides of the aisle to combat the nationwide spike in fentanyl-related overdoses and drug poisonings.” The group says it will work with federal and state law enforcement and “to educate the public and the Congress, in cooperation with prevention and awareness groups to better understand the ongoing threat of fentanyl in communities across America.”

“Fentanyl is devastating the lives of Americans in every corner of our country. With fentanyl-related deaths climbing every year, we need new solutions to stop this alarming trend,” Calvert said. “This is not a partisan issue – it’s a national crisis.”

Rather than pledging to end the fentanyl crisis, Calvert said he hoped the caucus would “educate Americans on the dangers of fentanyl and provide real solutions that will stop the destruction of this deadly drug.”

“Fentanyl is not a new danger. But the deadly threat it poses has now reached every corner of our country and no community is being spared,” Issa said. “The stakes could not be more clear: If we don’t win the fentanyl fight, we’re not going to just lose my community or my neighbor’s. Or any one of my colleagues. We’re going to lose this country. This caucus is needed now as we tell the truth, develop solutions, and save lives.”

When announcing its formation, the caucus didn’t call on the president or Secretary of State Antony Blinken to declare Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and 21 attorneys general have repeatedly done.

Last September, Abbott issued an executive order designating the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and any similarly situated Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations” under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. He also requested President Joe Biden do likewise, the second time he’d made the request since April 2021. In his September 21, 2022 letter, Abbott said since then, “There was no action, no response.”

He's still received no response, his office has said.

Last week, Blinken told Congress he’d consider designating cartels as FTOs. Two weeks prior, the White House said it didn’t have any intention of doing so.

Republican U.S. Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Roger Marshall of Kansas introduced the Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act, which Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said will “do the job Biden refuses to do – protect the American people.”

The caucus also hasn’t demanded the president designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, as 18 attorneys general have done led by Moody.

Fentanyl poisoning remains the leading cause of death among adults between the ages of 18 and 45. Two milligrams, the weight of a mosquito, is lethal.

In fiscal years 2021 and 2022, CBP agents confiscated enough fentanyl to kill nearly 5 billion people. Since March 2021, Texas Operation Lone Star officers have seized over 373 million lethal doses of fentanyl. Florida law enforcement officers in a few months’ time last year seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued several public alerts warning Americans about the dangers of fentanyl. Most recently it issued another public alert about the “sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with Xylazine,” an animal tranquilizer referred to on the streets as “Tranq.”

It did so after the FDA, CDC, and multiple state agencies issued warnings about Xyzaline being detected in an increasing number of illicit drug mixtures and a growing number of overdose deaths nationwide.

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. DEA has so far seized Xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 states.

Caucus members also include Angie Craig (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Ruben Gallego (D-TX), Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Raúl Grijalva (D-NM), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Don Bacon (R-NE), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Andre Carson (D-IN), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Bob Latta (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Barry Moore (R-AL), David Valadao (R-CA), and Robert Aderholt (R-AL).